On a Crowded Branch

how to get the attention your ideas deserve

Crowded Branch

We’ve seen several examples of young employees fighting for attention in the workplace.  

The struggle is real.  

Age itself is a hurdle in many circumstances. 

Do you remember your first job out of college? Were you excited to change the world? Did you think that your ideas were revolutionary? 

Was your job exactly as you had hoped? How long before you realized that your ideas didn’t matter? 

We expect companies to listen to what we have to say, but they rarely do. We feel like we have prepared our entire lives to change the world for the better. 

Now that we have the opportunity, we want to dive head first. 

Alas, we are rudely awakened by the lack of enthusiasm displayed by our employers and our energy is brought to a screeching halt by bureaucracy and resistance to change. 

Turns out the lack of enthusiasm and resistance to chance is part of the design of the industrial age complex. The industrial age complex has created busy workers and busy workers don’t have time to listen new ideas or free thinkers who like to challenge the status quo.

If you understand the peculiarity of the system, you can create your own methods to beat it. 

After years of experience, we have discovered a way to beat the system and get our voices heard. 

The unpleasant truth we all need to face is that the world is rarely how we think it should be.  

We must understand the systems and the rules in which we have been forced to operate. 

Once you understand the systems and it’s rules, it’s much easier to defeat the practices that are preventing you from making a difference.

We are independent thinkers, and we love to challenge the status quo. It’s something we’ve been taught from a young age. 

If you find yourself in the same shoes as many of us do when it comes to our ideas not being heard, keep three things in mind to devise a powerful process:

(1) timing

(2) a relative comparison 

(3) the right advocate. 

 

1 TIMING

“The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.” - Rumi

Practice good timing.  

If you have a good idea, a bad time would be to present it :

  • On Mondays
  • Before a related or unrelated meeting
  • After an unrelated meeting 
  • After lunch
  • When quarterly stewardships are due 

The best time to present a good idea is when:

  • Fridays
  • You know your boss is happy 
  • You know he or she is in a receptive mood
  • In the morning before he or she checks his or her emails
  • After he or she recieves a positive earnings report

Additionally, try to make the timing of your pitch relevant. 

You might have a great idea in your pocket, but if your timing is off, it won’t matter one bit.

This happens rarely, but if your supervisor brings up the problem on her own, the that’s the perfect time to present your solution. 

Sometimes your manager might not be aware of the problem, or have his or her mind preoccupied with something else. 

In that case you need to present the problem first. 

You may have to present the problem over and over for it to sink in. 

Be careful about this strategy though, as some managers don’t like hearing about problems all the time.  

Make sure to give the decision-maker time to come to their own understanding of the problem you are presenting.

 

2 RELATIVE VALUE

“A wise man is he who knows the relative value of things.” - William Ralph Inge

People are very poor at understanding absolute value but really good at understanding relative value. Dan Ariely has done a lot of research on this.

Once you are ready to present the solution, it’s not enough to simply tell or show people what it is. 

For example, this is why every race in the Olympics has a first, second, and third place. 

If Usain Bolt was on the track all by himself, and his world record in the 100m dash was against no one, then his fastest time of 9.58 seconds would mean nothing. 

But 9.58 seconds, when measured against the rest of the world’s fastest athletes, quickly has value. 

When you present any solution, it has to be against either an existing solution that’s not working or another option that isn’t as good. 

Research shows the best way to present your solution is in three’s (Predictably Irrational). 

First present something similar but that doesn’t provide any immediate benefit

For example, let’s say you want to track follow-up actions from a meeting. Someone’s job might be to write the meeting minutes. Unless that person remembers to distribute the meeting minutes, everyone else may or may follow-up on their actions. The problem is that these might be saved on one person’s computer and may or may not get emailed to the meeting attendees. 

Second, present a solution that is actually going to work, but still doesn’t resolve all the problems

For example, you could put all the follow-up actions from your meetings in an excel spreadsheet on the local area network that everyone can access. But, this still does not ensure that people are going to go search for their follow-ups on the LAN.

Finally, present your solution, which is astoundingly better than the first, then even better than the second.  

For example, you can demonstrate the case for using a software program like Asana, which not only tracks follow-ups from meetings but also tracks tasks by responsible parties and due dates.

 

3 THE RIGHT ADVOCATE

“All advocacy is, at it’s core, an exercise in empathy.” - Samantha Power

It’s time to find your first follower. 

Just because you presented the problem and shared a worable solution when you thought your boss was most receptive doesn’t mean he or she actually liked it or is going to take act on it. 

Your boss has his own set of priorities and own set of instructions. 

In this case, you need to find an advocate who loves your idea and helps you push it to fruition. 

The best advocate, if you work in the corporate world, is someone in a leadership position, but that always doesn’t happen. 

If that’s the case, you may need to hunt around your team, or the department, to find your first believer or follower. 

The first believer is someone that easily buys into your idea. 

Note that usually this is someone that directly benefits from your idea.

If you are struggling for your ideas to get attention, use these three simple steps as a starting point. Remember, just because these worked for someone does not mean they will for you. The only way to find out if the suggestions add any value is to test them and reflect on the results.

Below are a few questions to help with your reflection.

 

Reflections

Did your idea get any attention when you presented it when your boss was happy or in a receptive mood?

Did you present your idea on Friday or after your boss received good news like a positive earnings report? Did that help? 

What did you do to make your manager aware of the problem if they already didn’t have knowledge of it?

In this case did presenting the problem first help? 

  • Did you present the problem over and over for it to sink in? 
  • Did this help or hurt you? 

Did you give the decision-maker time to come to their own understanding of the problem you are presenting?

Did you present your idea in relative terms?

Did you present the solution in options of three’s where first present something similar but didn’t provide any immediate benefit, then solution that actually worked, but still doesn’t resolve all the problems, and finally, a solution, taht was astoundingly better than the first, then even better than the second?

Was your boss receptive to your idea? Did he or she act on it? 

Did you end up needing an advocate who loved your idea and helped you push it to fruition?  

Was your advocate someone that directly benefited from your idea?

Once you answer these questions, revisit the framework and make adjustments by discarding the steps in the process that do not work for you. Keep the final version that delivers consistent results and requires the least amount of work. Good luck!